Thread Number: 95206  /  Tag: Vintage Dishwashers
KA-WP appliance merger in the '80s
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Post# 1198488   2/3/2024 at 11:07 by firedome (Binghamton NY & Lake Champlain VT)        

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Saw the link (para. 3 below) in an old post (RIP!)

It seems there was major litigation by WCI and others around 1985 to prevent this from happening. At the conclusion of the case a temporary injunction was issued. Some very interesting facts here, as well as history that I was not aware of. For example I hadn't known that KA was in a significant decline by the mid '80s and that D&K, the new-ish owners of Hobart, wanted it sold. Also that D&M was also in a steep sales dive, becoming a less viable potential competitor.

Obviously the merger happened, but as stated did Emerson indeed manufacture KA-21 Series and some later KAs (through 23?) before WP exercised their option to fully acquire Emerson per the terms? They were also required to allow Emerson to make "model 21" and sell ISE machines under that name, but did they actually make KAs also? Another real info gem was the court's prediction that any foreign makers (mainly Sanyo and Panasonic who made smalls at the time), would be unlikely to begin US manufacturing of large appliances due to steep start-up costs.. D'oh! well they sure got that one wrong!

From the original RR article in "Comments", courtesy of "la573" (someone here?)


"Never was a dishwasher more the subject of legal wrangling than the KitchenAid KDS-21 (details here: ). Hobart wanted to exit the residential appliance market in 1984 by selling the KitchenAid division to Whirlpool, but several other companies sued to try to block the buyout on antitrust grounds – the combined WP/KA would dominate the dishwasher market. So a an 8-year sweetheart deal was arranged where a third company, Emerson (maker of the popular InSinkErator disposers) would take over building Hobart’s home products, including building the KDS-21 exclusively for Whirlpool using Kitchenaid branding, whilst Emerson could also sell earlier or different Hobart designs under their own Emerson name, or for other companies. They did sell some ISE dishwashers during that time, but they never bothered making any for third-party companies. After the 8 years lapsed, Whirlpool acquired the whole works from Emerson, and soon thereafter replaced the distinctive Hobart design with cheaper Whirlpool-derived dishwashers that lacked most of the features that made Hobart Kitchenaids special. Consumers quickly caught on, and started buying Bosch and other new high-end brands instead. Eventually Whirlpool realized they needed to make their Kitchenaid dishwashers more distinct from the cheaper Whirlpool models, and the current Kitchenaid models are again competitive, better in some ways than the old Hobart units and worse in others, but clearly something worth more than a basic Whirlpool dishwasher."

Very interesting indeed.
Any response from our highly knowledgeable AW.o commentariat?

Post# 1198489 , Reply# 1   2/3/2024 at 11:14 by petek (Ontari ari ari O )        

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News to me though it somewhat explains those last two Kitchenaids we had which didn't have the 4 arm bottom sprayer, just the typical WP plastic spray arm.

Post# 1198492 , Reply# 2   2/3/2024 at 11:39 by jamiel (Detroit, Michigan and Palm Springs, CA)        

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About this time Panasonic sniffed around entering the US major appliance market in a bigger way--they cobbled together a lineup of (primarily Canadian made, it seemed) appliances in the early 1990s to do a bit of a market test. Seemingly it was available at dealers that sold Panasonic/Matsushita electronics (kind of similar to the way GE introduced a RCA line of appliances at about the same time).

I would imagine that there was thought during this period that if Panasonic decided to "go bigger" that they would need to do their own manufacturing.

Post# 1198495 , Reply# 3   2/3/2024 at 12:02 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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Hobart went through some tough times in 1980's

First their was a hostile takeover bid by Canadian Pacific (yes, that CP).

To avoid that takeover Hobart moved house and merged with Dart & Kraft of Glenview, Ill.

In 1985 WP went after Hobart which Dart and Kraft weren't actively selling, in fact the division accounted for 22% of Hobart's sales. However "no" was not a word WP wanted to hear and was offering big money.

WP was on a roll in 1980's. After getting KitchenAid they also took majority stake in Inglis, Canada and Philips N.V. By end of decade WP also nabbed Roper brand and Bauknecht of Germany.

My guess is WP wanted KA for its upmarket associations.

Hobart KA dishwashers like their domestic mixers were known for high quality and something of a status symbol.

You have to give it to WP however in that they expanded KA range far greater than Hobart ever bothered. Maybe not everything was a success, but KitchenAid does often seem more upscale than WP.

Post# 1198643 , Reply# 4   2/5/2024 at 22:05 by superocd (PNW)        
I'm surprised Whirlpool didn't just buy all of Hobar

They never really had a commercial presence, and with a Hobart acquisition, they would have.

Post# 1198644 , Reply# 5   2/5/2024 at 22:19 by qsd-dan (West)        
I'm surprised Whirlpool didn't just buy all of Hobar

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Thank God they didn't or it would have been another fantastic company gone to the itter-shé

Post# 1198854 , Reply# 6   2/8/2024 at 23:44 by Launderess (Quiet Please, There´s a Lady on Stage)        

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Whirlpool wouldn't have known what to do with Hobart, so it's just as well they only got their mitts on KA.

Even with KitchenAid WP took some time sorting out how to position brand. In end once WP gobbled up Maytag KA laundry appliances weren't long for this world.

Agree with previous poster; WP would have dragged down and killed Hobart; commercial food service equipment just isn't their game.

Post# 1199265 , Reply# 7   2/14/2024 at 12:13 by firedome (Binghamton NY & Lake Champlain VT)        
Hobart, Vulcan-Hart and ITW...

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Now under ITW, Vulcan one of the leading commercial range makers, began in 1949 when Vulcan and Hart merged and their headquarters, offices, and many of their ranges were, and still are, made at their largest facility on North Point Rd in Dundalk MD (Baltimore), near our former swimming pool in Sparrows Point, back in the '60s we drove by it often. Nice to know they are still going strong.

Hobart, Vulcan, Traulsen and other top commercial cooking mfrs are all now owned by Illinois Tool Works, ITW, who have gathered many of the best commercial brands in the world under one umbrella. The new Centerline by Hobart in the kitchen I work in is a stellar machine, maybe because, as mentioned, when WP took over KA they didn't get their hands on Hobart Commercial. While excellent, I'd never take a new KA over our vintage Hobart KA (sadly in the shed right now awaiting service)! I wish we had an appropriate place for a Vulcan range too!

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Post# 1199277 , Reply# 8   2/14/2024 at 17:03 by CircleW (NE Cincinnati OH area)        

Hobart has a manufacturing facility in Hillsboro, OH, about 25 miles southeast of here. I don't know what is made there.

The church I belong to used to have a Vulcan electric range. It was installed when the kitchen was built in 1959, and used until about 8 years ago. Instead of having it totally refurbished at a cost of several thousand dollars, they replaced it with two GE residential ranges, which cost substantially less.

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